The Black Maria Film + Video Festival gets its name from the world’s first motion picture studio—built by Thomas Edison in 1893. For more than 30 years, since 1981, Black Maria has been widely acclaimed for advocating and exhibiting short works of film and video by veteran and emerging independent film and videomakers.
Black Maria was also one of the first touring American film festivals, taking its program annually to more than 65 diverse institutions in more than 20 states.
In 2012, Black Maria Festival director John Columbus brought Black Maria to my home turf (here in sunny Boston), and screened my experimental film, “Undergrowth,” at the end of a program featuring a mix of local and non-local films in a variety of genres, lengths, and formats. I’m someone who very much appreciates these kinds of variety-pack programs because they tend to challenge both moviemakers and audiences to experience films in very different ways.
The Boston event took place in the new 170-seat theater at Emerson College, and closing night was packed with a blend of students and members of the general public. “Undergrowth” screened on 16mm, and looked spectacular on Emerson’s big screen. More than anything, though, I appreciated having John Columbus there to provide his own background for the festival program, giving context for the films and filmmakers he selected. Under his guidance, the Q&A was very direct, and my fellow filmmakers and I were all given a fair shake at responding to questions. Seeing firsthand the diversity of the audience’s taste and perspective is always instructive. I definitely recommend Black Maria to any short filmmaker.